Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT for short, is a form of treatment available to women who are experiencing menopause-related symptoms. As you approach menopause, certain hormone levels may decrease, and so HRT can be used to return these levels back to normal.
If you mainly have genital symptoms such as vaginal dryness or bladder symptoms, you may choose to try a topical (vaginal) HRT treatment, also known as vaginal oestrogen cream or vaginal oestrogen tablets. However, if you have other symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes or sweats, you may want to consider HRT tablets or patches that work on the entire body.
Initiating treatment – you can order topical HRT (Vaginal) treatment for the first time with Superdrug Online Doctor even if you have never used it before. Complete a short online assessment and your online doctor will prescribe a treatment that is right for you.
Reordering treatment – you can reorder your current topical (vaginal) or HRT tablets/patches with Superdrug Online Doctor. Complete a short online assessment and your online doctor will prescribe your treatment if it's still right for you.
Testing for the menopause – if you’d like to check whether you are menopausal and might be ready for HRT, you can order a home test kit.
Using a home test works in the following steps:
In some cases, the doctor may need to ask for more information. They may contact you by phone, so make sure your telephone number is up to date in your online account.
|Elleste Duet (Conti)||84 tablets||£45|
|Estriol||1x 80g tube + applicator||£55|
|Evorel Conti||8, 16, and 24 patches||from £45|
|Ovestin||1x 15g tube + applicator||£25|
|Menopause Test Kit||1 test kit||£30|
|Telephone Consultation||with a doctor||£25|
Dispensing and standard delivery included.
Click & Collect: free (available for next-day collection in Superdrug Pharmacies)
Next Day Delivery: £3.99
The common side effects of HRT include:
The menopause can cause some unpleasant symptoms, including:
HRT can help – severe menopausal symptoms can interrupt with everyday life, so it is important to seek treatment, so you can carry on with your daily activities. The symptoms which women mostly complain about are hot flushes and sweating, improvements in these can help to improve their quality of life.
HRT involves replacing natural hormones – most women take a combination of the oestrogen and progestogen hormones, while women who have had a hysterectomy and have no womb can take oestrogen on its own. The primary aim of HRT is to ‘top-up’ the body’s natural supply of hormones which stop being produced during the menopause.
The two main types of HRT are:
You can order a home test kit from Superdrug Online Doctor to see if you might be menopausal. Once you’ve got your results you could then either order vaginal HRT online or go to your GP to discuss starting other HRT treatments.
The home menopause test kit is simple – just use the kit to take a pin-prick blood sample. Then send your sample to our lab by post and your results will be sent to your account in 2-3 days. A Superdrug online doctor will give you advice based on your results.
This test kit isn’t recommended for you if you’re using hormonal contraception (like the pill, hormonal coil, injections etc). It also isn’t right for you if you’re already using HRT.
You can order new and repeat courses of HRT from our online prescription service – HRT comes in different forms, including:
HRT is not right for everyone – you may not be suitable for HRT if:
If you are not suitable for HRT – there are alternative available including:
Combination HRT tablets – these contain both oestrogen and progesterone. There are a variety of different tablets available, they are taken once-a-day and are effective at treating the short-term side effects of the menopause. Long-term complications may also be treated through the long-term use of HRT including reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Combined oestrogen and progestogen patches – these are applied once or twice a week on any area below the waist. The patches are effective at treating the short-term side effects of the menopause. Long-term complications may also be treated through the long-term use of HRT including reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Vaginal oestrogen – also known as 'local HRT'. It can come in several forms including:
All of which contain a small amount of oestrogen and are used to treat the specific symptoms where they are applied such as vaginal dryness or urinary symptoms.
Local HRT will not help with symptoms such as hot flushes or protect against long-term symptoms such as osteoporosis. However, unlike other forms of HRT, local HRT doesn’t have the same increased risks and so can be used by most women.
In most cases, the benefits of HRT far outweigh the negatives – you can talk through any concerns you have with your GP. They will be able to advise you on the different types and forms of HRT. It will probably be your personal choice as to which type to try first.
HRT is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms – particularly hot flushes. Large studies have shown that HRT can significantly reduce the risk of fractures, improve vaginal dryness, sexual function, sleep patterns and improves aches and pains.
However, some of the clinical data shows downsides – some studies confirm the increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular health. Some studies have shown there may be an increased risk of stroke, whereas other studies state there may be heart health protective benefits of HRT.
There is evidence which shows HRT increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer which still means HRT is controversial. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently released an update on the risk of breast cancer and HRT. See the bottom of this page for more info. The NHS advises that each woman should discuss these risks alongside the benefits of HRT to establish what course of treatment will be best for them. Women who are already at an increased risk of cancer will be advised against taking HRT. The MHRA, also advise that healthcare professionals should carefully consider the benefits and risks for every woman considering taking HRT.
Side effects are possible – women can experience side effects when they first start taking HRT, these effects can last a few months. Individuals react differently to HRT, so one form is not better than another, it will just depend on how your body reacts to it.
The common side effects of HRT include:
If you are experiencing side effects, you should consult your GP for advice.
HRT may also increase the risk of other medical conditions.
Endometrial cancer – women who have not had a hysterectomy and are postmenopausal are at an increased risk of endometrial cancer if they take oestrogen-only HRT.
Ovarian cancer – women taking HRT are also at a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer. Studies, including one which monitored 948, 576 postmenopausal women on a five year follow up, have confirmed this. For every 1000 women taking HRT 2.6 developed ovarian cancer over a five-year period, compared to 2.2 women who do not take HRT.
Blood clots – HRT tablets, not patches or gels, have been linked to an increased risk of developing blood clots.
Breast cancer – in August 2019, the MHRA published some new advice about HRT and breast cancer following on from the results of a new study. This study shows that the risks of breast cancer if you’re using HRT are higher than we originally thought. They’ve got a useful patient info leaflet about these updates.
It’s important to think about possible risks when choosing to use HRT, so we wanted to let you know about these new findings. This is something you can talk to your GP about at your next annual review, but you can also message our doctors from your account if you have any questions about this. You should also make sure that you’re going to your national breast cancer screening appointments, and do the breast cancer self-checks as well.
Boseley, S. (2017). HRT won’t kill you – but menopausal women still face a difficult decision. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/15/hrt-hormone-replacement-therapy-wont-kill-you-but-menopausal-women-still-face-a-difficult-decision [accessed 13th March 2018].
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. (2012). Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). NHS. [online] Available at: https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/gynaecology/HRT.pdf [accessed 13th March 2018].
Hickey, M., Elliot, J and Davison, S, L. (2012). Hormone Replacement Therapy. British Medical Journal; 344: e763.
Jyotsna, V, P. (2013). Postmenopausal Hormonal Therapy: Current Status. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism; 17: S45-S49.
Medicines and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency. (2014). Hormone-replacement therapy: updated advice. gov.uk. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety-update/hormone-replacement-therapy-updated-advice [accessed 13th March 2018].
NICE Guidelines. (2015). Menopause: diagnosis and management. NICE. [online] Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23/ifp/chapter/benefits-and-risks-of-hrt [accessed 13th March 2018].
Ortmann, O., Dӧren, M and Windler, E. (2011). Hormone Therapy in perimenopause and postmenopause (HT). Arch Gynecol Obstet; 284: 343-355.
Warren, M, P. (2004). Hormone Replacement Therapy: Controversies, Pros and Cons. Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism; 18(2): 317-332.